It’s Pride Month, and you know what that means… yes, exploring the history and legacy of an incredible community that has fought and survived over the course of decades of adversity. But with that, who says we can’t have fun while we celebrate?
Queer nightlife has been a part of the community for many years, and there are many origins as to why that is—partially because nightlife has been an outlet for many subcultures and marginalised groups to find community, but more recently, there’s been an added layer of joy and celebratory nature to the whole thing. The idea that being LGBTQIA+ is a happy experience worth celebrating can, in many ways, encourage party and nightlife culture. Just take a look at the Pride Parade, for instance.
Whether you’re new to New York City, new to the queer community, or you’re just visiting, you likely already know about the Stonewall Riots, and therefore the Stonewall Inn, the bar and historic landmark located on Christopher Street that is still in business to this day. However, New York City has a long and rich history of LGBTQIA+ nightlife, and if you want to go beneath the surface and get in with the locals, you’re in luck during the current pride month festivities. I’d be more than happy to be your queer tour guide. Does this make me a bisexual icon? I hope so.
If you’re a sapphic woman in the city, one of the first places you’re likely to hear about is Cubbyhole. With the unfortunate reality of so many places in the United States and around the world losing their already-sparse lesbian bar scene, Cubbyhole has been around for decades and is one of NYC’s remaining lesbian bars. Opened by Tanya Saunders and Debbie Fierro in 1987, it’s located on W. 12th St. It’s essentially a tiny, densely packed room filled with amazing queer women.
However, if you want a lesbian bar with pool, dancing, and outdoor seating, head to Henrietta Hudson for a dose of fun with your LGBTQ history. Opened in 1991 and quite literally built by the lesbian community, Hen’s offers another side of the lesbian nightlife scene.
If you’re looking for more of a gay bar than a lesbian bar experience, you can also head to Julius’, located on W 10th St. It’s considered to be the oldest gay bar in the city by most accounts. Opened in 1930, the bar began attracting and serving the gay community in and around the 1960s. Now considered a historic site, Julius’ is definitely one to check out.
But, what about Brooklyn? And what about the drag scene? Don’t worry. We’re getting there. And there’s no better place to do it than Brooklyn’s 3 Dollar Bill. Home to some of the best drag shows in the boroughs, 3 Dollar Bill is a classic for those who love to dance, have fun, and be among their community.
At the risk of being too long-winded, I’ll end on a personal favourite: Happyfun Hideaway in Bushwick. It’s more of an all-inclusive queer space than a specifically gay or lesbian bar, and that’s one of the things I love about it. It’s not exactly a dance bar, but it’s a great place to hang with friends and meet new ones! Plus, their “gay juice” is cheap and genuinely delicious.
Of course, there’s no way to name all of the city’s best and most historic queer spots. That’s a part of what makes New York and its LGBTQ scene so special and abundant. There’s always a community waiting for you to join in and be a part of the city’s extended-found family. And now, you know exactly where to look.